Big scandals and smallish communities: thoughts on the rescue of Berry, DeJesus and Knight

There’s no way to adequately analyze the onscreen interview with hostage rescuer Charles Ramsey. In his television interview, he hit the social and class layers better than any news anchor could – and points to him for making the guy interviewing him uncomfortable. There’s no confrontation more necessary than that borne of total honesty. ((Also, don’t assume the siren/momentary panic is him doing something illegal – having known people that lived in Kabrini Green in the 90s, police in certain neighborhoods are often alarmingly non-discriminatory about arresting every black man in sight when organizing a lineup. Even if it’s probable or the guy has a record, it may not be what you assume.))

Then there’s the side twist: alleged (we have to say that until charges are pressed – let’s say someone else put those women in his basement without his knowledge) kidnapper Ariel Castro’s own son (aka Anthony Castro) wrote one of the first articles covering the disappearance of Giselle DeJesus. It’s unclear whether the younger Castro was living with his father at the time – if he lived with his mother or in dorms, a whole lot of stuff could have gone on without him knowing. Whether he likes it or not, the details of his own connection and his potential culpability will be examined by both the public and the law in the coming months and even years.

It’s going to be an issue that journalists, especially journalists in small communities, must pay attention to. It’s unclear whether the younger Castro is still a working journalist. If he is, he would have to be recused from covering anything related to this story because his position is conflict of interest – he is a potential source.

What becomes foggier is people of closer but not as direct relationships. Ramsey himself had a social relationship with the kidnapper – until he discovered the women hidden in the man’s basement.

This extreme example for Anthony Castro is a regular conundrum for Pagans reporting on Pagan-related news. While the Pagan umbrella is larger than we can visibly see (because of so many people that aren’t even out to other Pagans) we operate like it’s all a very small community. On a hopefully metaphorical level, we are the neighbor that reports the kidnapper or the kidnapper’s son whenever there’s something remotely controversial to report. For those of us that are out, we’re too small a community per geographic area and too close together to avoid this.

To not report something of that magnitude – to remain silent – is in itself unethical, more unethical than crossing the lines of disinterest and objectivity to make that news known. Abusive people count on silence; it’s why the bad people that get into Paganism seeking new victims are so fond of the misuse of “To be silent” from the commands of the Magi.

The smaller the community, the less the usual exclusions apply. What if the person in the younger Castro’s position were the only person available to report on the event? What if the person in Ramsey’s position were the only one available? What then? What if only one of the victims was available to report on what had been done? That could actually happen, especially in small communities. Then the question raised would be even more complex. Yes, it would clearly be a biased source – but the ethical duty of an activist press is to take power away from the person who committed the abuse in the first place. Giving a victim a voice, even a biased voice would be more ethical in that situation than remaining silent for the sake of objectivity. Of course, the abuser would not think so – but that’s how abusive people think.

There is no specific Pagan scandal I am thinking of or comparing as I write this. But this situation makes me think of several mini-scandals, over years, that have fit this pattern of strange connection. When there is no absolute right thing to do, then transparency is the closest of the mostly-right things to do.

Stories will come to Pagans – hopefully not of the kidnapping extreme – and the connections will be close. I hope that we are prepared for it when it comes.